If you grew up during the last half of the 20th century, you probably remember Halloween as being about more than pumpkins and parties. Thousands of children celebrated the holiday by going out to “trick or treat for UNICEF”. These days we no longer see children clutching those small boxes to collect nickels and dimes to help children around the world. UNICEF however, continues to work for children.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. (UNICEF) is 75 years old this year. It was started under the auspices of the United Nations in 1946 at the end of World War II. One of its strongest proponents was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was then serving as the Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In 1948, together with Alan S. Watt, an Australian Representative, she submitted a report to the UN outlining the goals and activities of UNICEF up until that time and set out future plans for the organization.
UNICEF is the world’s largest organization dedicated to children’s welfare, but like most charitable efforts, it has not been without controversy. During its earliest years, when its efforts were aimed primarily at European children who had suffered during the European war, there was almost universal support for its efforts. Now that UNICEF has focused most of its efforts on developing countries, there have been more issues raised.
UNICEF has been criticized by some people for having a policy of helping to keep orphaned children in their birth countries to be raised by extended families or communities. Some groups that support international adoptions continue to oppose this policy. UNICEF has also lost some supporters because it encourages the use and distribution of contraceptives to control population growth and has supported safe abortions for women. These positions led the Vatican to stop its support of UNICEF.
Throughout its history, UNICEF has encouraged vaccinations for children. Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic it is working with the World Health Organization and with governments throughout the world to provide vaccinations in the developing world. It’s hard to think of a more worthy project.
2021 is the 75th anniversary of the founding of UNICEF and time to celebrate the immense amount of good the organization has done over these years. While the trick-or-treat for UNICEF boxes may have disappeared from our streets, this Halloween would be a good time to give a donation to the organization that has helped so many children throughout the world for almost a century.